Q:

What common information about syphilis is true, and what is a myth?

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Quick Answer

Contrary to popular belief, syphilis can be contracted through oral sex, reports the Mazzoni Center. While some believe syphilis is not treatable, it can be cured through antibiotics. In addition, syphilis is not easily identified by its symptoms, and a screening is often required to diagnose it.

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Full Answer

Syphilis is caused by the bacterium Treponema pallidum, and is thus treated with appropriate antibiotics, reports the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Despite this, syphilis can have long-term complications, as it is rarely identified early due to symptoms that mimic those of other conditions. Symptoms of syphilis usually appear around 21 days after infection, but this amount of time may range from 10 to 90 days. Transmission occurs whenever an unaffected individual comes in contact with a syphilitic sore. These sores are common on the genitals, anus, lips or mouth, and can transmit the disease to children during childbirth.

There are four general progressions of syphilis if it goes untreated, adds the CDC. In the first stage, a painless, firm and round bump appears on the place of contact with another's syphilitic sore. During the second stage this initial bump heals, but rashes or mucus membrane sores appear on the body. Brown spots may appear on the palms of the hands or feet. Raised white lesions appear in moist areas of the body. Muscle aches and fatigue may also occur.

In the later stages of syphilis, these initial external symptoms disappear, explains the CDC, and the bacteria affects the brain, nerves, internal organs and joints. If left untreated, syphilis can result in dementia, loss of muscular coordination or blindness.

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